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Question:

I started a new garden last year (I ripped out the sod from the front yard and filled with 4-way top soil) and it did not produce well at all.  This spring it has a lot of weeds and grass growing in it already.  I am wondering how best to get rid of the weeds before tilling and then what would be best to add to the garden to make it more fertile.

Answer:

Following are a few ideas for you involving what to do with your new garden.  The suggestions are involving both non-chemical and chemical solutions.

Here are the suggestions:

– depending what weeds they are, the majority could be controlled by tilling.  This would be the case if they are annual weeds.  Quite often when you buy 4-way mix these are annual weeds that are in it.  However the grass may have to be sprayed with Round-up beforehand.  A good solution would be to spray with Round-up for the grass and weeds, then add some well-rotted manure and work it in well with the tiller.  Also a soil test may indicate whether some fertilizer or amendment is required.
– 4-way mix composition is specific to the company from which you purchase the product.  Check back with them for an exact compostion % on all ingredients in the mix they sent to you.  Quite often there is insufficient organic material in it and too much dirty (weed seed infested) top soil.  It should probably have at least 35% well-rotted manure or other manure compost to be a good mix.  It should also include 40% sandy loam and 25% peat moss or partially composted leaf mulch.  To correct the soil this year you could hand dig all weeds first then add your choice of organic material and till.  You could also grow a legume crop to till in after the garden is finished and top dress again with compost or peat moss in the fall.  You may need to fertilize with a balanced 10-10-10 liquid application during the growing season.
– you can make an organic weedkiller using apple cider vinegar, salt and some Dawn (original) dish detergent.  You will probably need 2 applications depending on the weeds.  Then you should amend the soil with a bulk compost (ie. several yards to have about 2 inches on top) such as mushroom compost or bulk worm compost.  Reimer’s soils in Winnipeg sells mushroom compost by the bag or yard while Miracle Ranch on Garven Rd. in Birds Hill sells bulk worm compost.